Credits via Practical Motoring
Headlining the changes for the MY21 CX-9 is a new range-topper, the all-wheel drive Mazda CX-9 Azami LE which introduces a Captain’s Seat layout, replacing the three-seater second row with two uber-luxurious powered seats.
Also added to the range is a 100th Anniversary model limited to just 110 examples and the sports-designed CX-9 GT SP, which adds unique design highlights to differentiate the CX-9 at the school gates.
All new Mazda CX-9 models get an upgraded infotainment system including 10.25-inch colour screen featuring the latest-generation Mazda Connect software. Models from the GT upwards now have wireless smartphone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay, with CarPlay and Android Auto also available via a plugged-in connection.
How Much Does It Cost?
A premium SUV demands a premium price tag, and the new Azami LE is now the most expensive Mazda CX-9, at $73,875 plus on-road costs.
For the money, you do get a fair bit of kit, but you’re well into luxury car tax territory when it comes to the price.
The limited-edition 100th Anniversary model is the dearest of the seven-seater CX-9s at $72,575 plus on-road costs, while the new GT SP is available in front-wheel drive for $63,490 or all-wheel drive for $67,490.
What Does It Cost To Own?
Mazda now offers a guaranteed future value promise as part of its financing. Should you choose to take out a loan for your new CX-9, you’ll be given a guaranteed value of the vehicle at the end of your term, allowing you to part exchange the vehicle, pay out the loan, or hand it back.
The Mazda CX-9 servicing schedule is set at 10,000kms/12 months and you can plug in your VIN or rego on the Mazda website to get an accurate estimate of your next service price. Indicative costing is also available should you choose to service your CX-9 at your Mazda dealer. Regardless of which CX-9 you choose, you’ll be paying $363 in years one, three and five, and $408 in the second and fourth years. Mazda also recommends a brake fluid change every 2 years or 40,000kms ($96), and a cabin filter at 40,000kms or two years at an additional cost of $105.
The Mazda CX-9 includes a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
What’s the Exterior Like?
There are no sheet metal changes to the 2021 Mazda CX-9, but design enhancements differentiate some of the key models from their predecessors.
All Azami models, including the new Azami LE feature a new 20-inch alloy wheel design, a titanium grey metallic front grille and larger rear tailpipes.
The new sporty CX-9 GT SP available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants, features some specific design highlights to help it stand out from the pack. It features a dark gunmetal grille design, black mirror caps and black 20-inch alloy wheels.
Lucky owners of the limited-run 100th Anniversary Special Edition will receive a car finished in an eye-catching Snowflake White Pearl Mica with a 100th Anniversary logo on the front fender and wheel caps.
What’s the Interior Like?
Each of the three new 2021 Mazda CX-9 models receives its own unique interior treatment.
The 100th Anniversary Special Edition contrasts its stunning exterior paint treatment with a deep red interior. The colour combination is inspired by the original high-grade R360, Mazda’s first passenger vehicle.
All seats are upholstered in burgundy Nappa leather while carpets and floor mats are red. The 100th Anniversary logo is embossed on the car head rests, floor mats and key fob.
The Interior of the CX-9 GT SP carries on its dark exterior design with black interior finishes, red sports stitching on the steering wheel and interior trims and a burgundy leather upholstery.
The stand-out interior on the new CX-9 models is the Azami LE with its second-row seat design. Each of the captain’s chairs are electrically adjustable with heating and ventilation functions, so passengers receive the same level of comfort as the driver and front seat passenger. A one-touch operation allows access to two seats in the third row.
Extending the luxo-feel of the Azami/ Azami LE is a new quilted nappa leather upholstery in brown or a rather daring pure white.
Mazda says while it is not directly targeting ride share operator or fleet buyers with the upmarket Azami LE, a short stint as a passenger was enough to prompt thoughts of the Mazda CX-9 having a life outside being a family workhorse.
The ride is comfortable, with heating and cooling systems working well and the seat adjusting enough to make for a relaxing ride. A high seat position is also a bonus and I can’t see anyone being upset when relegated to the middle row of the Azami LE. The third row passengers may have reason to be disgruntled, however…
How safe is the CX-9?
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 has a five-star ANCAP rating and a suite of advance safety features and technologies.
Six airbags include curtain airbags from front to the third rows. Radar cruise control with stop and go, smart brake support, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, smart city brake support in forward and reverse gears, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and driver attention alert make for a solid package of active safety technologies.
What’s the Infotainment Like?
The new Mazda Connect system replaces the outgoing Mazda MZD, and offers a faster boot up time. Apple CarPlay looks greats on the wide 10.25-inch screen and the system retains the MZD’s dial control which is one of the most intuitive non-touchscreen setups on the market.
For the driver, a head up display shows useful information including the posted speed limits using traffic sign recognition.
What is the Storage Like?
Interior storage remains unchanged. There’s a good variety of bins, door pockets are a good size and the wireless charging spot is a welcome addition.
With all three rows of seats in play, there’s enough room for two medium sized suitcases to sit alongside eachother in the boot.
What engines are available?
There’s no powertrain updates for the 2021 Mazda CX-9 so all models remain powered by the existing 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol SkyActiv engine, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 170kW is a torquey unit which hauls the 2000kg Azami LE with ease.
Paddle shifters have been added to all CX-9 grades from Touring upwards but it’s unlikely you’ll need to trouble yourself to use them as the gearbox does a good job at shifting along with the engine.
How about the fuel economy?
The claimed fuel economy for the CX-9 on an ADR combined cycle is 9.0L/100km but during a day’s driving including a decent stint of freeway driving, the CX-9 achieve 11L/100km. Based on previous experience, the Mazda CX-9 offers solid fuel economy figures when driven in a sensible manner.
What’s it like to drive?
The Mazda CX-9 has been a favourite SUV of mine since its introduction in 2016. It holds a unique position in the market sitting between the affordable Koreans and the luxurious end of the European market.
From the driver’s seat, the CX-9 is easy to handle and it doesn’t drive like the large SUV it is. It isn’t particularly floaty on the road and while there’s a bit of noise from the 20-inch wheels and tyres, the ride is comfortable.
Power delivery from the engine is predictable, proving useful when overtaking slow-moving traffic. The car reacts quickly to an urgent press of the accelerator with no turbo lag worth noting.
All-round vision is good, and the driver’s seat position gives a good view of the road ahead. There’s a good-sized rear vision mirror too which allows a solid view of the second row – it’s always handy to see what your passengers are up to!
From the driver’s seat, the front passenger’s seat, or the new second-row Captain’s chair in the Azami LE the Mazda CX-9 feels a lot like home. It’s an accessible SUV which is easy to use and delivers on its premium promise. The infotainment system just works without being overly complicated, and the rest of the controls are intuitive. Everything is easy to find and nothing is overdone.
What are the alternatives?
The market for multi-seat SUVs is hotting up in Australia with the new Genesis GV80, Kia Grand Carnival and whopping great Hyundai Palisade just some of the new models here to compete with the Mazda CX-9.
The new design updates are more enhancements to the Mazda CX-9 range rather than brand new innovations, and some buyers will be looking for the newest model to land on their driveway. They may look to the newcomers rather than the mid-cycle CX-9. Price-conscious buyers should look at the Kia Sorrento, while the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace or Skoda Kodiaq represent solid European alternatives without reaching into the uber luxury category.
In short, there’s a lot of choice now when it comes to seven-seaters!
The Bottom Line
The new Mazda CX-9 has a couple of key differences that should hold buyers’ interest. The updated infotainment system with larger touchscreen enhances the cabin’s premium feel, while the design features of the GT SP models and the 100th Anniversary edition add some classy additions to what is already a well-packaged SUV.
What remains to be seen is the role that the Azami LE will play in the portfolio. One-third of all CX-9 vehicles sold is the range-topping Azami seven-seater so Mazda buyers (most of whom are private buyers), clearly don’t mind shelling out for a top-of-the-range model. The question then remains whether they will be willing to forego the seventh seat in favour of the captain’s chair arrangement.